Thursday evening, Donald Trump surrendered and was processed in his fourth set of criminal charges, and had his first-ever mugshot taken. As soon as that picture became public—Trump, head lowered, brow furrowed, glowering in front of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office insignia—his campaign started fundraising off of it. “NEVER SURRENDER,” the $34 T-shirt reads below a copy of the mugshot.
Many have already rolled their eyes at the idea of running with “never surrender” to accompany visual evidence that you did, indeed, surrender to the authorities. (For the fourth time.) Trump’s team will doubtless argue that he didn’t really surrender, because he’ll fight in court until his options run out—and he hopes to use the 2024 election to get rid of all those pesky criminal charges. But … he literally surrendered himself to have that picture taken. He could have waited past the Friday deadline and been arrested. That would have been fundraising gold.
Trump’s glower in the mugshot is presumably an effort to pose for the T-shirt he knew his campaign would be marketing. He’s trying to look like a tough guy, and to his fans—the ones who believe that he has the height and weight of a professional athlete or an action movie star—it probably works. But to others, he looks scared, furtively hunched over. Or like a deranged movie villain. The idea of putting this picture on a shirt with a “never surrender” message is hilarious, but try not to point and laugh if you see one walking around in the wild. That person probably has a gun and a case of seething rage.
Let’s not forget that this wasn’t the first time Trump surrendered himself to face charges, it’s just the first time he was treated somewhat like a regular criminal defendant.
In April, Trump was arraigned in New York on felony charges of falsifying business records. As the police walked him from processing to the courtroom, they didn’t even hold the door for him, the poor man.
Federal officials protected Trump from having pictures taken inside the courthouse when he surrendered for arraignment on felony charges including willful retention of national defense information and conspiracy to obstruct, because there are two systems of justice, and Trump is in the one where powerful people get treated with kid gloves. Trump tried to turn it into a circus with a visit to a restaurant filled with supporters following his arraignment. But make no mistake: He was a man showing up when and where he was told to face serious criminal charges.
Trump was again protected from anything making him look like an ordinary criminal defendant when he was arraigned on federal criminal charges relating to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, but he did not want to be in federal court in Washington, D.C., that day. His presence there was a surrender.
However many T-shirts they print it on, the mugshot is just another confirmation that Donald Trump is a criminal defendant—in New York court, in federal court in two jurisdictions, and in Georgia court. And while he’s certainly not pleading guilty or making any kind of a deal, he does show up—and surrender—when he’s told.